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Miranda Reads Biodiversity of Coasts by Greg Pyers

  • Posted on July 31, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Miranda Ritts writes: The name of the book is Biodiversity of Coasts by Grey Pyers. This book is very Biodiversity of Coastseducational. I think it is great that it talks about things that are going on in the world such as oil spills. This is a great book for research. It would be good for topics such as oil spills, biodiversity, and coasts. I enjoyed the pictures in this book because they gave a great example of what the book was talking about.

Diane writes: An excellent resource to have on hand, not only for biodiversity and biomes, but also to address issues of pollution, oil spills, etc. You need Biodiversity of Coasts immediately, but go ahead and get the entire series. Each title has unique information at a depth I haven’t seen focusing on biodiversity and relationships.

Have you ever held a book in your hand and tried to go online to find more information, but there was nothing on the web? You begin to wonder if you are losing your mind or not. I have been searching the Marshall Cavendish website, including their MC Benchmark imprint, but cannot find this new series BIODIVERSITY listed. The publisher did send me this set to review along with a slip of paper saying the publication date is August 15, 2010. Each title is under $20 and they contain information not found in other biome themed books. I hope Marshall Cavendish Benchmark folks fix this fast!

I’ll go ahead and give you ISBN information so you can order your books now:

  • Biodiversity of Coasts 978-1-60870-069-1
  • Biodiversity of Coral Reefs 978-1-60870-070-7
  • Biodiversity of Deserts 978-1-60870-071-4
  • Biodiversity of Polar Regions 978-1-60870-072-1
  • Biodiversity of Rain Forests 978-1-60870-073-8
  • Biodiversity of  Woodlands 978-1-60870-074-5

After further checking, I saw that the series was first published in Australia in 2010 and FINALLY found information on the site with information that this is the International Year of Biodiversity as declared by the United Nations.

The publishers description states: Biodiversity describes the variety of living things in a particular place or ecosystem. It is essential to the survival of plants and animals but human activities have upset biodiversity and it is not under threat. The series examines the biodiversity of habitat types and ecosystems. It looks at threats and efforts to conserve biodiversity, and identifies biodiversity hotspots.

Take a look at the table of contents to see some of the diversity being studied:


  • What is biodiversity?
  • Why is biodiversity important?
  • Coasts of the world
  • Coastal biodiversity
  • Coastal ecosystems
  • Threats to coasts
  • Biodiversity threat: Urbanisation (spelled Urbanization in my U.S. copy)
  • Biodiversity threat: Invasive species
  • Biodiversity threat: Pollution
  • Biodiversity threat: Climate change
  • Coastal conservation
  • Case study: The Mediterranean Coast
  • What is the future for coasts?
  • Glossary
  • Index

I wish I had my scanner connected so I could show you a double-page spread and you could see just how much information is presented in these 32 pages. The information is spot-on for middle schoolers with small text chunks perfect for the reader who becomes easily terrified of too much text. Wait! I found it. The Australian publisher has put a pdf presentation online where you can view some of the double-page spreads for yourself.  I have to wonder again when the US web page is going to catch up.

Miranda Reads Watch Out World – Rosy Cole Is Going Green!

  • Posted on July 31, 2010 at 8:10 AM

Watch Out, World--Rosy Cole is Going GreenMiranda Ritts shares her review of Watch Out World – Rosy Cole Is Going Green!  The book is written by Sheila Greenwald. This book has a great storyline. It really shows how anyone big or small can do their part to go green. I really enjoyed how the book gives great ideas on how to do things for the world such as recycling and using worms for composting things. These are only two of the ideas in this book that anyone could do. The cover on this book is great. It was a good way to get my attention with the bright colors and large print.

Diane’s notes: View this creative video   Make Like a Tree and Leave we made for a workshop on Videos and Podcasting. We decided to pretend we were students and based a tree-planting activity upon the Watch Out World – Rosy Cole is Going Green book.

If you could see the white letters around the cover, you’d read “Rosy Cole’s bright, though not exactly popular, ideas about garbage, worms, dirt, and other gifts of nature. ”

When I read the inside cover of this book, I thought it would focus on planting trees and taking steps to be more earth-friendly like using the energy-saving lightbulbs. Instead, Rosy Cole’s new adventure has her learning about nature while respecting insects.  I particularly enjoyed her research into Blattella Germanica and red wiggler worms.

My favorite Rosy Cole quote from the book:  

“Because the museum is where I found out going green is about respecting and protecting the earth and all its creatures. Even the ones that aren’t as pretty as butterflies or as cute as ladybugs can teach us important lessons.”

Can you believe that we have been reading the adventures of Rosy Cole for 26 years?  I remember my first Rosy Cole book – Write On, Rosy! (A Young Author in Crisis).  This newest edition to Sheila Greenwald’s early chapter books will be a popular choice for science units and Earth Day studies.

Miranda Reads Doubles Troubles by Betty Hicks

  • Posted on July 31, 2010 at 3:22 AM

Doubles Troubles (Gym Shorts)Miranda Ritts reviews Doubles Troubles by Betty Hicks and illustrated by Simon Gane. One of the main things I like about this book is how it tells true things about sports and competition. I liked that the kids in this book did and went through things that every kid playing sports would go through. Another thing I enjoyed was the illustrations in the book.

This is a good example of why you don’t need color to have good illustrations because in this case, shading does the trick. One thing I disliked about this book is how it left us hanging. I would have liked to have known what happened at the other tennis matches even though Henry wouldn’t have won the trophy.

Publisher’s Description:  Henry wants to win the doubles tennis trophy more than anything. He knows he’s good enough, but he’s not sure his partner Rocky is. The advantage goes to new readers as they follow Henry as he helps Rocky  train and, at the same time, works on his history project. Can Henry serve up an ace on and off the court?

Diane writes: This newest edition to the Gym Shorts series for beginning chapter books (second & third graders) continues to integrate sports with positive attitudes beyond the court. There is much in this title that parents can discuss with their children. I wish more parents would take time to sit with their 1st-4th graders and listen to them read these beginning chapter books. Betty Hicks has provided many opportunities for questions and discussions.

Readers know that I believe teachers and librarians MUST read a variety of books to their students, not just fantasy & sci-fi, but sports fiction & nonfiction, also. Many teachers are not as enthusiastic about sports so when they read sports books aloud, they make the experience boring and painful. Please do your students a favor and give the Gym Shorts series a try.


Here’s an illustration from Simon Gane’s blog and from Doubles Troubles. I appreciate seeing a wider variety of the illustrator/artist’s work in addition to their children’s illustrations. Plus learning that the illustrations were done with Indian ink on Bristol board helps me appreciate the artist’s work even more. See his blog post for Simon’s comments on Wacom tablets.

Leaving Paradise

  • Posted on July 30, 2010 at 1:19 AM

No, I’m not talking about leaving the blog. I’m chatting about how much I enjoyed reading Leaving Paradise  and how Leaving Paradiseexcitedly I’m waiting for the sequel, Return to Paradise,  to come out September 1st. Simone Elkeles (also author of Rules of Attraction, Perfect Chemistry, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation, and How to Ruin My Teenage Life) wrote Leaving Paradise in 2007. I was reading an 8th edition printed in 2010 by Flux.

Flux is an imprint dedicated to teen fiction with titles like Indigo Blues, Other (on my list to get my hands on!) and a 40th anniversary edition of John Donovan’s I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip. They’ve got some great stuff for teens and young adults. My urban eighth graders are going to love these titles.

SLJ wrote about Leaving Paradise “Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old skins.” 

The publisher’s blurb states: 

Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as “criminal” and “freak.” Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

I’m telling you when I sat down to read Leaving Paradise, I was expecting a maudlin, sappy story about a poor pitiful victim and her tough attacker.  Not! This was a gripping frustrating story with characters that change, develop, and grow, battling society in a typical teenage manner, not in some grown-up fantasy way. It held enough romance, drama, and realistic teen issues to satisfy my very demanding students. The ending left me frustrated, hopeful, and committed to reading the sequel. This is one book that I’m glad I didn’t read too soon before the sequel will be released.

Paying it forward – do you?

  • Posted on July 28, 2010 at 1:52 AM

Recently the ALA executive board members have been receiving thank you notes from Spectrum Scholar recipients. These notes mean a great deal to me because I was a recipient of the David H. Clift scholarship in 1988 from ALA. It enabled me to go to graduate school 2 weeks after earning my B.A. I can remember dancing around with glee and sharing the news with my college professors. 

At that time, the scholarship paid my tuition. (Imagine that!) I could focus on paying for textbooks, food, and housing with my part-time assistanceship. At that time I had no job and no income, so the Clift scholarship was the only way I had to attend LIS school. I am curious as to how many other scholarship recipients “pay it forward” by becoming involved in the organization.

Were you a recipient of an ALA scholarship and do you feel like you have continued to “Pay It Forward”? How about other programs that give scholarships? How did you show your thanks to those organizations?

This fall I would like to host a Spectrum Dinner in the Nashville area. We’ll choose a location, each pay for our own dinner, and collect donations to the Spectrum Scholar Fund to enable more students of diversity to receive scholarships. Are you interested in joining us? Let me know by emailing me at

Preparing for the new year

  • Posted on July 28, 2010 at 1:24 AM

Do you have a list of activities you do before you even walk in the door of the school for the new year? I’d love it if you would email me those Must-Do’s. Here are a couple of mine:

  • Organize a Special Calendar of Events for the entire year
  • Register for YALSA’s Teen Read Week*
  • Register for the new & improved Wrestlemania
  • Plan for Internation School Library Day
  • Plan for inspiring everyone to enter the Why I Need My Library Video contest
  • Plan for El Dia de los Ninos/El Dia de los Libros
  • Plan for the book fair
  • Organize a framework for the Library Club meetings
  • Prepare a space for student blog, wiki, and podcast work to be shared
  • Update the library page on the school website so it looks inviting & exciting
  • Spiff up the entrance to the library for a “Wow” experience as people walk in
  • Prepare collaborative documents/ electronic documents/ and incentives for teachers
  • Stock up on coffee and chocolate

*Visit the Teen Read Week website at for program ideas, planning resources (including professional materials), publicity tools, etc. Register is  free! and you’ll receive access to the Teen Read Week
theme logo, Books with Beat @ your library, and be entered into drawings to win books from VIZ Media, Carolrhoda Labs, and Cinco Puntos Press.

Engaging students in writing using TweenTribune

  • Posted on July 27, 2010 at 2:12 AM

I decided to try out (a totally free source) this year in addition to my Edusoft blog (for which I pay monthly out of my personal bank account $6.95 to avoid ads). Have you tried it yet? With 28,000 teachers already using TweenTribune, I feel like a late-adopter.

Here’s how TweenTribune works. Each weekday, they search the Web for age-appropriate news stories that will interest tweens (ages 8 to 14), and invite them to comment. All comments are moderated before publishing, so it’s Web-safe.

I can register my own class, customize the pages, moderate comments, and get individual printouts for each student.  That would be a big help at the beginning of the year when I am demonstrating writing for an authentic audience for my reading & language arts teachers. I’ll be using the Top Ten Lesson Plans   as conversation starters for collaborative planning.

Here are some of the safeguards TweenTribune uses and lists on their webpage   for teachers:

“TweenTribune is in full compliance with COPPA – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission. This means that:

  • Students may not use their last names.
  • Students may not use their email address anywhere on the site.
  • TweenTribune does not gather or store student email addresses.
  • Teachers can moderate students’ comments before they’re published.
  • TweenTribune only uses news stories from reputable news organizations, such as the Associated Press, and local newspapers and TV stations.
  • Teachers’ identities are independently verified before they are granted administrative privileges.”

Are you one of the teachers using TweenTribune? I’d love to hear more from you about your successes and challenges.

A perfectly lovely sad yet romantic young adult title The Girl Next Door

  • Posted on July 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM

The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla. WestSide Books, 2010. ISBN 9781934813157 . 240pp $16.95 ages 14+

Have you read this book yet? Be warned. It is both romantic and sad. It grabbed me emotionally and I ended up holding someone’s hand while I read. I was hooked so thoroughly that I was afraid my emotions would get out of control and I’d start weeping while we rode in the car.  If you have students requesting sad books, romantic books, and realistic titles, add The Girl Next Door to your YA list.

Author Selene Castrovilla does a tremendous job of sharing the difficulties of undergoing cancer treatment as well as the emotional needs care-givers experience, too. Her characters are realistic and direct. It is easy for the reader to connect.  Fans of Lurene McDaniel and teens will devour this title. This is an author to watch.

Publisher’s Description: While most seniors at her high school are worrying about prom and final exams, seventeen-year-old Sam is desperately trying to save her best friend Jesse’s life. He has a rare, treatment-resistant form of cancer, and his odds of survival aren’t good; he may have only ten months left to live. Through every bit of his pain and anguish, Sam has been by his side—through the grueling, aggressive treatments and their awful aftermath, to sleeping in his room when he’s afraid to be alone. Best friends and neighbors since preschool, Jesse and Sam’s friendship is changing. Now they’re falling in love, and the bond between them grows stronger even as Jesse weakens. Will they have a happy ending…or will their story end in heartbreak?

Sam has loved Jesse for a long time even as he dated popular beautiful girls. When Jesse is diagnosed with terminal cancer and withdraws from his friends, Sam’s devotion to Jesse enables her to stay by his side through the darkest of moments. She sleeps on a bed in his room while he lies in a hospital bed trying to get comfortable.  She sacrifices much of her life and school to be there for him. When Jesse indicates he is also in love with her, Sam must battle her emotions and seek answers: Does he love her only because he has cancer and no one else is there? Should she encourage him to undergo aggressive treatments or let him progress his way? Can she go on with her life without him if need be?

The author keeps us on this emotional roller-coaster as we battle between wanting Sam to protect herself and in understanding her love & devotion. I was relieved when Sam began opening up to her counselor.

Sam’s counselor offers her a technique for reprogramming her subconscious and a pamphlet called “How to Tap.”  I wanted to learn more about this because I was so emotionally wrapped up in the reading of The Girl Next Door. I found some links online to EFT Therapy – Tapping Therapy for Emotional Freedom Techniques and Meridian Tapping Techniques.

I’ll be contacting author Selene Castrovilla this week to find out more of the “behind the scenes” to this story. Any questions you want me to share?

Miranda Reads The First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got to the White House

  • Posted on July 16, 2010 at 7:53 PM
Author Bob Staake's cover for The First Pup

Miranda Ritts* writes:  The name of the book is The First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got to the White House. This book was written and illustrated by Bob Staake. I liked how this book has a lot of detail in the story. It gives readers a great idea of what went on in the beginning of President Obama’s inauguration. One of my favorite parts was when Malia and Sasha were picking a name for the dog. The illustrations in this book are great. They give a great picture of the people and the surroundings throughout the book.


From Diane:

I agree with Miranda on the naming of Bo being interesting. I liked the illustration of Bo’s entrance to the White House with the cautious expressions of the staffs’ face.  The illustrations are joyous, bright and colorful. This would be a good read to K-2 students. There are many non-fiction pairings that would go well with this title. One I prefer is from Elaine Landau’s The Best Dog Ever series Portuguese Water Dogs Are the Best!

A good nonfiction narrative tells as fascinating a story as fiction. I’m happy to point out that Elaine has dedicated her August, 2010, title Cocker Spaniels are the Best! to little ole’ me. Sweet! I am very honored by those 3 little words: To Diane Chen

*Miranda is my niece. She decided I had so many books with me on vacation in Iowa to read, that I needed help reading and blogging. Miranda has added her opinions to several blogs here.

"Woof-stock" 2010 at the Plymouth County Historical Museum

  • Posted on July 16, 2010 at 3:14 PM
Andrew catches Medicine Ball

This thing was heavy!

I returned to Washta, Iowa, to visit my parents too late to participate in nearby LeMars’ Woof-stock, but I am definitely planning to attend this event next year.  Judy Bowman of the Plymouth County Historical Museum in LeMars, Iowa, shared details on this event with my niece Miranda and nephew Andrew. In addition to helping the

museum and animals, the event began to entice more youth into the museum.

“Woof-stock” is an event that occurs around the country. It is a day to honor homeless and disabled dogs, and those brave dogs fighting cancer and heart disease. There are several rescue organizations in the Sioux City, Iowa area (like Noah’s Hope) who save dogs and cats from kill shelters where they only have 7 days to live. This event is planned to occur next year during the first weekend in June. This year’s events included:

  • Opening ceremonies with the “Woof-stock” Arch Recognition of Honorary Chair Dogs and pet owners then the Poochi Parade.

    Pet books were part of the store Poochi's Parlor

  • Woof-stock Street Fair” with vendors, games, silent auction, flea market, and more
  • Hot Dog Dinner and Pizza by the Slice with remarks by Noah’s Hope Animal Rescue
  • Spotlight on Siouxland Paw Prints Cat Rescue Program
  • Awards ceremony for Plymouth County third grade “Woof-stock” poster winners
  • Agility Training with Stephanie Oswals
  • Marcia Becker with Canine Rescue
  • Blessing of the animals, bandanas, pet adoptions and much more.

While we were visiting family in Iowa, we stopped by two local county museums – The Sanford Museum in

Horizontal Harp

This Horizontal Harp takes 3 players. Can you imagine?

Cherokee, Iowa, and the Plymouth County Historical Museum in LeMars, Iowa.  My father has lived in Cherokee County his entire life, but had never visited the Sanford Museum. Miranda and Andrew live in LeMars and have frequently visited their museum. They were eager to show us all five floors.

History surrounds us. How can we interest youth in the past? I believe in exposure, story, events, and connections. When I saw the musical instrument part of the

A harp for me to dream about touching

museum, I was hooked. I’ve played the organs where you pump the keys and the harpsichord. I’ve never played a harp though. I loved watching Harpo Marx play the harp in every Marx Brothers’ movie. 

So many books have weaving and looms